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Family Matters

Family Matters

Smitten – Crushing on your kid

Autistic kid helps friend

Loving your kids is a given.

They sit etched in your heart with that deep, beautiful love that will never go away.

But I am surprised at times by those moments you realize that you are truly, sincerely falling in love with your kid. Not that parental love but a massive crush. You gaze dreamily at your child as you witness a certain kind of character they are demonstrating. Admiring their virtue and wishing hard that what you see is a little taste of what the future holds, a core value they might hold true for life.

A morning last month started off like most mornings these days. Our lives have been hectic. Near insane in fact with two parents traveling for work, major projects coming to a head. We ran around like mad chickens, prompting getting dressed, pushing our daughter to get moving to brush her hair, reminding the kids of teeth, backpacks, lunches. You know the drill.

Through a serious case of two ships in the night, we both totally glitched on the fact that it was a special field trip day. Completely omitted from our Google calendars/brains/wall book that we had volunteered. We did rock, paper, scissors. We cursed a few times. In the midst of all the crazy, there was our son. Dressed, teeth brushed, hair combed, boots on without any kind of reminders. He sat on his bed looking as pleased as punch. So excited about this field trip and so worried we would be late.

I accepted this sudden change in design of my day, and that I would be the one representing. After all, field trip + public transit + wandering Autism is like my very own version of Fear Factor.

We met our motley crue at the school. One of the members of our group was a sweet, little girl our little man decided was his responsibility to help for the day. My heart skipped a beat as we left the school into the rain. His SNA and I smiled at each other as we watched him pull out his umbrella to shelter both of them on the way to the bus.

My sweet boy and watching over his friend for the day
My sweet boy and watching over his friend for the day

When we got to the subway, he took her hand. He made sure she stuck with the crowd. He made sure she was taken care of and told her to not to worry, that he had her covered.

Throughout the day, I witnessed him checking in with her to see if she needed help, holding her hand, making me want to weep from his sweet heart.

I saw a kindness and a caring that surprised even me. We see him feel joy all the time when he does good things for others. Whether its reading to the little kids in daycare, or happiness when he has a special moment for a friend, he is a good kid.

This was different. Without encouragement he put effort into making his friend secure and safe. You could tell caring for kids makes his heart zing and that.. makes mine.

My happiness for the day couldn’t change after that.

In the simplest of ways, he brought back my faith in humanity. In the quietest of ways, he made my heart swell for him.

When one person simply cares about the welfare of another.

For that, I am totally smitten.

Falling in love with this smile over and over again
Falling in love with this smile over and over again

 

 

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Family Matters

The Grief in Losing a Friend

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Aimlessly I drag myself around the grocery store, lost in a sea of tears.

A large gaping hole the size of the moon in place of my stomach, my heart pounding so hard I’m sure any minute its going to break out of my chest.

I think I might puke, save for the obscenities I am screaming to every stranger that walks by with a smile. Well, at least I am screaming in my head.

This..Is… Grief.

Grief like I have never experienced before. Grief that feels so deep, so dark I’m not sure I will come out of it.

I lost one of my best friends in the world this past week. An unexpected tragedy of epic proportions.

Her name was Tracy.

Tracy and I had our first babies across the hall from each other. Although our husbands met with a quick hello in the hallway, it wasn’t until 6 weeks later that we connected at a New Moms Group by the hospital. To hear Tracy tell the story when all the rest of the new moms walked in, she was intimidated. She thought we all had our shit together and were rocking motherhood while she thought she was a hot mess. How I tell it is that I walked in and saw one of the most genuine smiles I have ever witnessed in my life, a friendly in the war of surviving motherhood. A state where we were ALL a hot mess.

 

Our Mom's Group story in Today's Parent
Our Mom’s Group story in Today’s Parent

Every week we would meet. I coveted those days as a much needed check-in.  After the mom’s group finished, we set up a weekly meet up at a park nearby. Tracy’s daughter and my son were the finicky ones which led to us having to stop halfway through our walks, feed or calm them having many a chat before catching up with the group.

It solidified our friendship.

We spent the next 9 years in the throes of motherhood together. Between managing birthday schedules (Each of our kid’s birthdays are one day apart), theatre adventures, BBQ’s, dinners and so much more, our friendship developed into one chock full of love and respect.

If you have read anything about Tracy, you know that she was a beautiful, giving person. But I sit here now and only wish she knew the kind of loving impact she made on so many people. How good she made them feel. How good of a friend she truly was.

Friendship is everything to me. These are people you choose to be part of your life. People who give you a gift in knowing them. Yet somehow along the way, you get busy. Social updates become your feeder, text your touch base. You compromise time in person because you are building a business, or travelling or family time is crucial given the limited space and time you have available between hockey games and soccer practice. Because you are tired and life feels too busy. Tracy’s gift was taking the time to show you how important you were to her and she was pushing for us to have some time together. In person. I can’t tell you how deeply my heart regrets that I let life get in the way and that we didn’t have more time for those real life moments.

The best friendship I ever witnessed was how she felt about Sean
The best friendship I ever witnessed was how she felt about Sean

THE GESTURE OF FRIENDSHIP

Signs are everywhere that Tracy is still close by. Finding a lost necklace from her, Bon Jovi on the radio, the woman behind us at Starbucks named Tracy. I feel like each moment is her sweet gesture of trying to let me know its OK.

I couldn’t be getting through this grief without the kindness and gestures of the friends I have. Simple check-ins, sending texts, sending love and hugs, trying to find ways to make me smile. My heart feels so heavy and they made me feel loved and cared for, like I have been covered in a big warm blanket of support. Tracy will be a constant reminder to take the time to tell these friends just how special they are.

A CIRCLE OF FRIENDS

The night before Tracy’s funeral, we went to a gathering of her closest friends. We laughed, talked, hugged and cried our way through remembering and telling stories from different facets of her life. We all knew about each other because that was one of the most amazing things about Tracy. She was always so great at telling you how proud she was of her friends. At one point, we were surprised how easily and quickly we all got along. Of course we did. We all loved Tracy. And we were lucky enough that she had chosen each of us to be her friend.

I live in a circle of new friends. Together we ache in union for a soul sister. For someone who gave us each her heart and captured ours with her beauty and her sweetness.

For that I am forever grateful.

Love you T.

When our worlds collided and Tracy became a wonderful part of BlissDom
When our worlds collided and Tracy became a wonderful part of BlissDom

 

 

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Family Matters

Parenting Conversations – The Tough Mother

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Also known as CONVERSATIONS I REALLY DON’T WANT TO HAVE…

Parenting has been hella hard this week.

We’re pretty easy going. Our style is to encourage our kids to be respectful, to be generous and to be kind. We talk openly with our kids about periods, penises, and current affairs. If they ask, we shape the parenting conversation as best we can to be straight up but also find examples and understanding that fits for their age.

But there have been conversations this week that have completely challenged us as parents. ALL the hard ones rolled up in one frickin frackin day.

The first was with our daughter and involved the current protest of parents of the new TDSB Sex education curriculum. She asked us why there were so many kids missing from her class. After darting a look at my husband to check in that we were on the same page, I explained that some people didn’t like the kind of stuff they would be learning about in class about health and sex. Let’s just say it like it is right?

I asked her if they had ever discussed different kinds of families, how a mommy & daddy aren’t always the norm? She said sure and comfortably went on to talk about a book about a mom & a dad, or 2 moms or 2 dads. I explained what the terms of like homosexuality and being gay meant,  and to us as long as there is love in a family, that’s all that ever counts. OK…that wasn’t so hard.

We then talked about the fact that the curriculum brings an earlier introduction into the health conversation about puberty. Once I explained puberty (really? today we have this talk?) I also told her we thought that talking about this is 100% necessary. We talked about when I was growing up, the average age for a girl to get her period was 14-15.  How that average now sits at 12 and girls are getting their periods as early as 8 (WTH??) . (The fact that my 7 year old could be starting to go through this next year AND the fact that with a period comes the possibility to conceive completely ….blows…my mind ).  This is a natural evolution in society. For us the open dialogue is crucial especially when the internet can provide so many WRONG versions of the pieces of information we want them to explore.  We want to prepare our kids for what comes next and be the ones guiding those topics.

This conversation has elicited many more this week and by Tuesday night I have hit my wine quota for the week already.

MY daughter also thinks they should become YouTubers. How do you have sex talks with innocence like this?

So….those were tough. And just as I was patting myself on the back for handling those well, my husband looked at me and says “I think its time we tell our son he has Autism”.

What? Now??

This particular conversation for us has been circling for awhile now. As much as Autism demonstrates kids often being unaware, we were starting to notice all too much just HOW aware our guy was becoming that he is different. We have had too many moments on the playground. We have seen him question a ton why something he had said made kids laugh so hard or why he kept getting into trouble for daydreaming. It was time and we wanted to arm him with the tools of understanding so that his beautiful generous heart doesn’t continue getting crushed.

We have a pattern. We talk for awhile, we circle around a topic and then BOOM! one day we just go off and get ‘er done. We did that in buying a house, in buying a car, in going skydiving, in going on trips and apparently in telling our kid he has something that will be with him for his lifetime.

He is doing so incredibly well at school with an amazing supportive tech-savvy teacher. We have supported him as best we could, made him feel loved and deeply cared for, and given him comfort and confidence to have a strong sense of self. But this was massive. It was like standing at the dock right before a polar bear swim. You know its going to be awful, (to make that leap) but you also know it will feel great on the other side.

And so we leapt.

And as much as life is always like that, it was done. All that angst, and worry and late night conversations about how and BOOM! there it was.

It wasn’t perfect but it wasn’t as bad as we thought and to the wise words that many an Autism mom has shared, in many ways was a big relief.

There are still 1,000 conversations for us to have but my lesson is that the first step is always the hardest. We have finally started down this path in the right direction. I just didn’t realize this route would start with such a tough mother f*cker.

 

 

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Family Matters

I’m Not Ready. Are you? #ManulifeReady

Dad & J -Kiss-1

My dad  is a smart egg. A very smart egg.

When I was 15 he very smartly gave me one of the best gifts I have ever received in my life.

He started an RRSP for me.

Amidst the eye rolls and heavy sighs, he would love to talk about RRSP’s. For him, its like watching the Weather Channel or calling over to our relatives in Scotland, it gives him great joy. He is proud of what he has saved over time (& so he should be) after growing up in a time where there was hardly any money around to have for the future.

I was a total teenager when he told me he had set this up.

Little did I know how much of an impact early savings would make
Little did I know how much of an impact early savings would make

I didn’t realize the impact what he was doing for me would have an on my life.  I didn’t realize that his conversations about RRSP’s would leave such a mark with me. All the discussions around contributing would be a reminder every year to do something. His starting the contributions then helps provide me some breathing space now. The topic that used to make my eyes get glossy and my attitude full of “OK I GOT IT DAD!!!”. Now I realize, I don’t “got it” and its something crucial to start tuning into for the future.

We are graced with two little ones. Children that will rely on us to help set THEM up as they grow up. To help get them to university and to be prepared for what comes next. I find it hard to be responsible for someone else when I barely feel responsible enough for myself.

You gotta admit..when they were this small you had no idea what was to come.

Our Challenge:

We don’t have a hot clue in hell what we actually NEED to be prepared for the FUTURE.

Do you?

I feel like as much as I know its important to be ready, we’re not. Our financial literacy is reasonable but not high. Our goals in terms of a retirement age hanging out over in left field because we simply have no idea when that will be or when it should be.

Here’s where we are at now:

  • We know its the right thing to do to put aside RRSP’s. So we do, but we have no idea what the right amount of contributions should go in every year.
  • We set-up RESP’s as soon as we got SIN numbers for the kids with payments that kick-in the government match program. We sincerely hope we will be on track. Those expected university costs in the future give me heart palpitations every time I read them.
  • We are not sure if our child with Autism will have the capacity to have a career or job so we have started an RDSP for him to protect him. The challenge is that its there for him when he is 60. I can’t help shaking my head that if one can’t get gainful employment as an adult, waiting till 60 won’t be the issue. But I digress.

We are feeling somewhat good about it all but not good enough.

When @Manulife’s #ManulifeReady program came about, at first I was taken aback by the series of commercials they were airing. They had an ominous feeling to  THE RIDE, THE MEETINGTHE CALL. Everyone I talked to felt uncomfortable with how serious or depressing they were.

But I get it.

Things can change at the drop of a hat. You just DON’T know.

@Manulife is asking you to consider those when you think about planning. About opening doors and which ones are important for you?

For us, we look forward to A RIDE (maybe at Disney?), A MEETING (that will lead to weddings in the future) or A CALL (…cause seeing the FINAL FOUR live is SOOO on our list).

Manulife is doing 2 cool events for this program.

The first:

A CHANCE TO WIN $2500 by simply posting a photo of a door that means something to you.

To join the conversation:

  1. Post a photo on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram of a physical door in your past, present and/or future and tell Manulife why it’s important for you.
  2. Use the hashtag #ManulifeReady
  3. Post away.

The Second:

I am pumped to be hosting the #ManulifeReady Twitter Party at 9PM EST on Tuesday, March 24th with @Shasherslife @Manulife because I AM SERIOUSLY looking forward to better getting a grasp on what we need to do to be financially ready. And although I’m not eligible YOU ARE..& could win CASH PRIZES (Over $3000!!) to help get you going.

Are You Ready?

@Manulife Twitter Party - March 24th 9PM EST
@Manulife Twitter Party – March 24th 9PM EST

 



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Family Matters

Kids & The need to cuddle – Tales of my daughter

Baby sleeping on floor

I can hear my daughter trying to sneak out into the hall. My guess is that she is trying to read her book by the light of the bathroom, she is setting up tea time for her animals or she is trying to see if by chance I left the iPad in our bedroom.

She is by all essentials a night owl.

Tonight (like most nights) I know she will collectively come out to check on me/complain of a stomach ache/be thirsty/need to tell me something/ask me to tuck her in/ask me to sing her one of our favourite songs/talk about the day.

It drives me ba-na-na-s.

In trying to maintain a disciplined approach to getting her to bed, we give her warnings. A gruff voice. Threats of losing privileges. We get cross. We talk about being up for school & the importance of getting good sleep. None of these seemingly fine tactics ever quite work with her.

She has done it to her brother
She has done it to her brother

 

It’s a battles of wills, which eventually one of us wins. Either her falling asleep and us exhausted from the process.

What we have come to realize is that our daughter is quite simply..a cuddler. For her to drift off into Neverland, she seems to need someone close. And to STAY in Neverland, she often shows up in our room in the middle of the night, looking for that need to cuddle to help her ease back to sleep.

For the longest time, I questioned if by allowing her to stay in bed with us or by one/or both of us moving – (yes there have been more than a few nights of BOTH kids showing up in our room) are we doing them a disservice?

I want them to grow up comfortably independent. Learn how to be autonomous and all that jazz. However, in the need to guide our kids to grow up strong, have I forgotten what it was like to be 7 years old? Have I gotten too caught up in the lesson & missed paying attention to a human aspect of growing up? At some point in time, we have all been afraid.

A little one with so much character
A little one with so much character

I remember those nights. Whether it was The Goonies, Gremlins or Ghostbusters, you bet your life I was in my parent’s room at some point unwilling to close my eyes afraid at the images that lay before me as I fell to sleep.

I can’t tell you as often as I would like what bothers my little girl but I do know that her imagination is a good one. She is an old soul, a complicated kid and I imagine her creativity brings forth images that could be just too much.

So as I focus on being mindful in 2015, I will take a moment to hear more about her fears & in those times, rather than trying to force her to go to sleep, I will simply offer her a cuddle.

They often both take over our bed
They often both take over our bed

 

 

 

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Family Matters

My kind of hockey – #WJC2015

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Dad says: It was that time of year again: mid winter, heightened excitement about what laid ahead…you know what I am talking about. That time to dress wacky, get crazy, and count down till the puck drops. Not the ball, or the apple in NYC, I am talking about the World Junior Hockey tournament.

Best date night of the year #WorldJuniors
Best date night of the year #WorldJuniors

Every year, it’s a right of passage, where I am graciously granted some extra tv time (& the Big TV) to watch Canada take on the world on our own version of the frozen tundra. This year was a little different, as Jenn has come over to the dark side of hockey player.  It has infused her with a greater understanding and greater passion for the game. So I made room on the couch, but there were still some rules that needed to be followed:

  • No talking during play. (Unless you are yelling at the TV)
  • If Canada is winning, sit in the same place.
  • If Canada won last time, wear the same clothing. A loss? Wash the clothes and wear the sweater. Not a jersey, end of discussion.
  • No import beer allowed: no Stella, no Kronenbourg, no Bush. Microbrews are allowed and actually preferred, as long as they are created north of the 40th. I am aware of the global conglomerate ownerships, thanks for your input.
  • If you are distantly related to a participating country, you may cheer for them unless they are playing Canada. Then you must shut up.
  • Snacks can be from anywhere, as long as they are tasty. We are a cultural mosaic after all…NOTE: If said snacks represent the opposing country, and that country beats Canada, the snacks will be defiled, removed from the host premises, and banned from all future tournaments and games.

Now, this year the host city duties were shared between Toronto and Montreal, so viewership extended to a couple of live visits to the ACC to catch some of the round robin action. With the wife. Now, I am sure I sensed a bit of a shudder as you read that. But I need to be honest here: it was fun. Jenn ‘gets’ more of the game now, and even forsaw a goal coming together based on player positions. Huge upside. She also buys me beers, so…

My biggest challenge is this: I saw Sweden take on Russia, and could not decide who to cheer for. Honestly. ‘72 Summit series with Kharlamov and the Eagle or Forsberg in ’94 that saw every piece of IKEA furniture out on the front lawn after the bastard scored. I had to go the expert for help to overcome this deep seeded predjudice. The answer from the Oracle: watch for good hockey and leave by the end of the 2nd to spite them both. Smart fella..

WJC Games are always better with friends
WJC Games are always better with friends

Mom Says: I absolutely absolutely LOVE watching live hockey. I still remember the nosebleeds we would head at an old school Jets Game. When I first moved to Toronto 12 years ago, I had the privilege to sit in some fancy pants seats Chris got from work..as I stood up to cheer I was told to sit down by guys in suits on their phones and eating sushi. THIS was not my kind of hockey.

MY kind of hockey is yelling…and cheering…and screaming at the play. My hockey is beer..and popcorn and peanuts…and The GOOD ‘OL HOCKEY GAME…and the Kissing Cam and (if you are from Winnipeg you will get the reference) Dancing Gabe and the Wave.

Watching the World Juniors LIVE (Thank you Chevrolet Canada) and on the tele was MY kind of hockey. It was passionate fans and proud Canadians. It was with my husband (who lives and breathes hockey) and it was plain old fun.

Best activation of the series- Cdn Tire & their #BigPlay play
Best activation of the series- Cdn Tire & their #BigPlay play

CONGRATULATIONS #TEAMCANADA.

WE ARE SO PROUD OF YOU.

Photo credit- PixGood.com
Photo credit- PixGood.com

 

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